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Computers – My First Byte… October 10, 2011

Posted by shannonmuir in Memoir, Writing.
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Folllowing the death of Steve Jobs, it’s appropriate to write about computers and writing this week. Especially when the first computer my family owned was an Apple, and we got it about the time I first got into creative writing.

I first became recognized for my talents in creative writing at around age 10 (5th grade), in the early 1980s. About this same time, my father purchased our first home computer – the Apple ][ +. We were the only family for blocks with a home computer that I know of. Now I’ve always had poor handwriting (though crushing a finger in a door in 7th grade hasn’t helped), so I gravitated to the keyboard early even though I did not learn to touch type until I was about 16 or so. Both my sister and I would start writing stories and save them in various word processing programs. I believe AppleWriter was the first one we used, and then later AppleWorks.

When my Dad got out of the Navy and used his GI bill to go back to school after 24 years of service, he needed the ][+ for his computing homework and couldn’t compete with his kids for time on the machine. That’s when the Apple ][ c entered our lives. Yes that “c” meant compact but other than the drive and keyboard being in a single portable case, it wasn’t truly (the monitor, albeit small, was still a bit of a handful). Though I will admit it was of perfect size for a preteen and teenager. Both my sister and I continued to write a lot of material, making up what would amount to entire novellas at times.

Then came the moment.

The moment that would forever render us Users of the Other Operating System.

As I became closer to high school age, I also began to have an interest in screenwriting. I came to learn from a professional working in the field in Los Angeles that non-Apple machines were the screenwriting industry standard. I was told “it was a pain” exchanging formatted scripts with Mac users back then (and my family didn’t even have a Mac at that point, though we had them in high school so I knew how to use one).

With that, my Dad found someone at work – actually the mother of a classmate of mine – selling an older “non Apple” machine because her family was upgrading. Dad took the parts tothe now defunct  Superior Typewriter and Computer, later just STC, in Cheney, WA.  I had a great relationship for many years with those folks as they not only custom built the parts of the old system into a new case, but would build me a completely new system for my graduation (except Dad didn’t buy me the sound card since he didn’t think a writer needed it yet also bought me this fantastic new game that came out by a local company called MYST… which you could not play without a sound card, so I went and bought my own, top of the line with microphone input and all since I was working on a broadcasting future).

Of course the dark side of all this was the inability to convert all those files we’d done on Apple computers, up to including developing entire series of stories. My sister and I ended up making dot matrix printouts of anything and everything we thought worth saving, and then having to handtype them all back into WordStar (that was the first word processor we had) and later MicrosoftWord.  In the end, I think most of it was retained by making sure to upgrade a lot of the files not only by versions of Word but from one media to another (5.25 discs to 3.5 discs to Zip discs to flash drives, etc.).

So, I’ve been using non Apple machines ever since in terms of desktop work. Other than occassionally using my now fiance’s Mac for things – he’s had Apple computers and never left the fold – I don’t regularly touch Macs anymore. But in the last year I’ve come to own an iPad that with the right accessories I can treat like a laptop and easily write stuff on the go. Not to mention files are more cross-format compatible than ever between Windows and Mac when it comes to documents, even if the main programs themselves are not.

How far we’ve come… and how dependent I was on a computer even early on in my writing development.

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